Ten years ago I could barely walk. I am a dancer. Imagine!
I will never forget crawling into work in agonizing pain, and hating what my life had become.
I had such big dreams! I had worked SO hard. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.
From Baby Steps to Dance Steps
Did you always know what you were meant to be?
I knew from the age of 3, in my very first dance class, that I was meant to be a dancer.
The movement, the freedom, the music. The creativity and expression of dance, the story and the fantasy of ballet. It felt like my soul was speaking to me.
My love and passion for dancing grew every day- but so did my fears. The ballet world is a tough place to grow up in. The fierce level of competition, and having to be so virtuosic, made me deeply insecure about myself as an artist and as a dancer.
Would I ever be as good as the other dancers in my class? As good as everyone else in the audition? As amazing as the famous dancers I idolized?
Dancing became my secret dream- the one I didn’t have the courage to share with anyone. What if they laughed at me? What if I wasn’t good enough?
On top of that were family and social expectations. I was the student council-cheerleader-honour roll type. I was expected to go on to a “traditional” career and be the CEO or have some other “big-time” job.
No one else in my family had pursued an artistic career. Was I ready to be the first one to break the mould? To step out into the great unknown?
The biggest question: did I have the courage to follow my heart?
Shortly before graduating high school, I had to make a decision: where did my future lie?
Would I stop myself from finding out my true potential? Was I willing to live with the “what ifs?”
Would I allow others’ expectations of me to dictate my future?
But I knew that this is what I wanted. This was what I was meant to do.
I did it. I fought hard to get into a professional dance school, and I got accepted.
I was so excited! My dreams were about to begin!
Perfect Steps Only
But now my fears got worse.
Art brings with it a pervasive anxiety about being “good enough to make it,” and I let this get the best of me. I began to give more weight to this fear than to the possibility that I might have talent.
I worked hard. But deep down, I didn’t feel worthy enough to be among the other dancers. I spent most of my time comparing myself to them. I was convinced I had nothing to offer, and that I didn’t measure up to them.
There’s also this idea in art, and especially in dance, that the teachers need to break you in order for you to fight back and show them what you’re made of. This stoked my fears even more!
I dealt with this by shrinking into the background. I was afraid to stand out because that meant people might notice me and pick me apart. It was safer to hide inside myself.
I played small, and unknowingly made sure that I would never shine.
I became obsessed with perfection- being the perfect dancer and the perfect student, so that others couldn’t find any holes in me.
I adopted a “no pain, no gain” mentality to reach my goals. I was determined to make something of myself, and make it in the dance world. I worked my ass off to get to professional dance school, and through sheer force of will, fought my way through it.
In doing this, I lost all the joy, all the freedom, spontaneity, and excitement that had lured me to dance in the first place.
But it would be years before I realised this.